It’s tradition now: when an XCOM game comes out, you recreate your friends, colleagues and record-collection-stealing former lovers then send them out to be murdered by aliens. Basically, it’s the Sims with Sectoids rather than sex.
But they'll only star briefly. Whenever someone dies, they’ll be replaced by one of this site’s readers. Who will also almost certainly die. That’s how much we love you.
Before I go into how that works, let’s meet the starting team. Full disclosure: I’ve already been through the tutorial, in which only Graham (and three randoms) was available, and after surviving that I purchased everyone else. Which leaves me with no cash in the attic for base renovations – let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite me later. I then took Graham, Adam, Alice and Pip out on their first mission proper, Operation ICE FACE, more on which shortly.
Everyone save Pip and John created their own characters, and they are all available here to download and place in your own XCOM 2 pool - here's how that works if you don't know already. My account's waiting for approval at the time of writing, but I'll also add and share that pool to the XCOM Barracks once I'm in. In the meantime, you can grab any number of famous faces for your own game from there if you don't like the look of our ugly e-mugs.
Adam “Professor” Smith
Our cowardly Manc has wound up being a Ranger – i.e. shotguns and swords. Which is ill-fitting someone who’d rather have as much distance between him and the aliens as possible.
Alec “Sad Sack” Meer
What am I sad about? Anything. Everything. Particularly my no-doubt imminent death, and also my awful hair. I haven’t been out in the field yet, as starting squad sizes are but four, so who knows what weapon I shall wield?
Alice “Didn’t enter a nickname” O’Connor
Ice Face incarnate, eh? I’m honestly wondering if Alice somehow had a hand in developing the character creator. Initially her build was wearing a hat, but it was removed due to a last-minute panic that it wasn’t cool enough. She has been promoted to a Specialist, which means healing and/or hacking.
Graham “Graham Smith” Smith
Towering, shaggy-haired silence: this is XCOM 2’s character creator at its most eerily accurate. Sterling leader that he is, sniping-focused Sharpshooter Graham scored three kills in the tutorial alone, and as such already outranks everyone else.
John “Papa Bear” Walker
John doesn’t do strategy games in any shape or form, and hence will never see the horrendous colour scheme I’ve slapped across his armour. He does sometimes wear a baseball cap in meatspace too, though. No missions yet, so class unknown. Let’s all pray it’s not a healer.
Philippa “Three Ps Dammit” Warr
Alice built Pip, so I take no responsibility whatsoever for that hat. I was seriously considering bouncing Pip off the team after she scored six consecutive misses in her first outing, but then she took out two guys with one shot, so all is forgiven.
Again, the team are all available to download and add to your own Character pool here.
This quartet proved their worth in Operation Ice Face, a mission to prevent Advent and their Sectoid chums from destroying some sort of communication beacon. It went suspiciously well: this was my first time playing XCOM 2 on Commander and Iron Man difficulty, and I was braced for a wipeout. My 20-odd hours of practice on Veteran gave me a slight advantage, but I’m expecting that to change once the game starts hurling more than basic enemies at me.
Graham took to the rooftops and scored another three kills, bringing his total to an impressive half-a-dozen from just two missions.
Adam took out an Advent reinforcement from Overwatch seconds after the dropship arrived, then lobbed a grenade at another one that was sheltering inside a building, blowing it to smithereens.
This opened up a line of sight for Pip to one-shot a Sectoid which had psionically reanimated a fallen Advent grunt, thus earning two simul-kills.
Alice coolly trotted up right behind the final Advent soldier and emptied a round right into the back of its head, clearing the field of enemies and thus giving us the greenlight to go home.
A job well done, soldiers. I’m proud of you. And now I’m faced with the dilemma of whether to send you out again as you’re the most capable guys in the entire resitance, or try to build a b-team based around Meer (hello!) and Walker so I’m not in a hole if any of the A-team bite it.
But they are going to bite it, because I’m playing at XCOM 2’s second-hardest difficulty (if I played at the hardest this diary would be on a hiding to nothing) and with Iron Man perma-death turned on. If someone dies, that’s it. No take-backs.
Whenever an RPSer dies, they’ll be replaced with a new character bearing the name of one of our readers. Those names, initially at least, are those of our treasured Supporters, who signed up in this initially private, now public, post. The names in the offing are all in this here Google spreadsheet, which will also be updated with anyone in-play’s class and status (i.e. alive/wounded/dead). Names will be picked, appropriately, with a random number generator, so it’ll be always a surprise who signs up.
When I run out of names – and if I do it means I’ll have had an expensive, extremely stressful campaign – I’ll fling the doors open to everyone, Supporters or not, to volunteer their names.
That’s the setup. Tomorrow, the campaign begins in earnest. Who shall I get killed first?
With apologies to Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie for the title of this diary.
How to use the XCOM 2 character pool
The Character Pool is essentially an import/export function for user-made soldiers. Add someone to it – either in-game from the Armory or out-game with a file you’ve downloaded – and they’ll become available as a recruitable Rookie. You can also specify that you want them to be high-ranking soldier rewards or even NPC VIPs on escort missions - though these will crop up more randomly, and in any case that’s not what I’m doing in this diary.
If you want to add characters to your pool – for instance, the RPS team, available here – here’s what you need to do:
In Windows Explorer (or whatever alternative you use), go to My Documents \My Games\XCOM2\XComGame\CharacterPool\Importable
You can then paste in any *.bin file (or copy any out to send to someone else). Then you need to fire up XCOM 2, click Character Pool from the main menu, click Import and then select the file you just pasted in. You’ll then see a list of characters included in it, and can choose which ones you want to add to your game’s pool of rookies. If you want someone to appear as a higher-ranking unit (e.g. for mission rewards) or NPC VIP, you can fiddle with toggles at the bottom of their details screen.
That’s it, pretty much. If you’re starting a new game you’ll be given a random mix of Pool characters and randoms for the first, tutorial mission, but can buy any Rookies in the Pool following that.
For more on XCOM 2, visit our XCOM 2 guide hub.